Movie Review >>
Night Watch photo courtesy Fox Searchlight
In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the slayer. Oh wait, wrong story … kind of. In Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor), there aren’t just vampires, there are entire races of both good (Light) and bad (Dark) guys called “Others” (no, not those Others) and the Chosen One doesn’t necessarily have to be a good guy.
Night Watch begins over 1000 years ago with an epic battle between Light and Dark. The brutal battle finally ends in a truce between Light and Dark, in which they agree that no Other can be forced to choose the side of good or evil, they have to choose for themselves. To ensure this, each side sets up police forces of sorts called, Night Watch and Day Watch, respectively. Like all stories that involve the eternal battle of good versus evil, there is a prophesy. The prophesy foretells a day when a chosen one will appear who can end the eternal battle between Light and Dark. When the chosen one is revealed, he will be given a choice to choose between Light and Dark. Whichever side he chooses will decide the fate of the world. Kind of a large burden for one person to carry.
Cut to 1992, where we meet Anton Gordesky (played by Konstantin Khabensky who may be the Russian Clive Owen). Anton’s fianc?ï¿½e has left him for another man and he wants her back, so naturally, he goes to see a witch. The witch informs him that his fianc?ï¿½e is not only with another man, but she’s pregnant with this man’s child. She tells him that in order to get his fianc?ï¿½e back, the child will have to be killed. Before the witch can finish the job, Night Watch comes in and arrests her. It is then that Anton realizes that he is an Other. 12 years later, Anton is working with Night Watch to track a child that is being summoned by a vampire. Tracking this child turns out to be much more than Night Watch bargained for as Anton discovers that the apocalypse might be right around the corner and the boy he is tracking could be the Great One who would mark the beginning of the last battle between Light and Dark. And that’s really only the beginning of the story. The problem with a trilogy piece for a reviewer is that the end of the first part is really only a third of the way through the entire story. It makes me want to tell you more, but, you know, then you’d know the entire plot, and where’s the fun in that?
Like most films about vampires, demons, and otherworldly creatures, Night Watch is full of darkness. Nighttime, people dressed in black, leather, etc., but the Russians get the underworld movie right where we Americans get it wrong. How? Instead of trying to be cool, they just are cool (so cool, in fact, that they included a clip from Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the movie (“Buffy v. Dracula,” if you’re wonedering)). And, unlike most American movies in this genre, you don’t get the impression that the actors are sending out desperate subliminal messages to the audience that say, “Yeah, I know this is pretty lame, but I’m just doing it until I can get my big break in the next Jane Austen movie and be just as respected as Keira Knightly.” Night Watch is stylistic in all the right places and relies on simple acting when it needs to. Even the film’s approach to subtitles is pretty damn cool. At times, the actors walk right into the subtitles, obscuring them, or making them disappear, at other times, they type the text right onto the screen.
Will Night Watch be winning any awards? Probably not. I have to admit that at times it looked a little bit more cheesy B-movie than kickass vampire movie, but whatever. Like all films (and tv shows) in this genre, no matter how well acted and executed it is and no matter how well the story is told, its still just a movie about Vampires, Witches, and Others to some people. It can’t go any deeper than that, right? Ehh, maybe not. But, there were times when I couldn’t help but wonder if the message that the Light Others who thought they were helping the world, were doing exactly what the bad guys were doing, they just had righteousness on their side, and that made them right, whether or not they actually were (sound familiar?), had less to do with Vampires and Demons and had more to do with the state of the world today. But, you know, what do I know? I’m telling you to see a movie about things that don’t really exist.
In the end, I’m selling the same line I’ve been trying to sell to people for years. Yeah, some people don’t need to be sold, and you people know who you are. You’re the people who saw Underworld and were disappointed (obviously some of you weren’t, they did make a sequel), and the people who saw Constantine even though it starred Keanu as the chosen one … again. You don’t really need to be convinced to see a movie like this. But the rest of you, the ones who still laugh when people tell you that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was actually good, you might need to be convinced just a little bit more. So, go see it. I dare you to walk out of the theater not feeling just a little bit cooler for it.
STARRING: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Valeri Zolotukhin, Mariya Poroshina, Galina Tyunina, Yuri Kutsenko, Aleksei Chadov, and Zhanna Friske
GENRE(S): Action, Fantasy, Foreign, Horror, Mystery, Sci-fi, Suspense/Thriller
WRITTEN BY: Timur Bekmambetov, Laeta Kalogridis, Sergei Lukyanenko (novel)
DIRECTED BY: Timur Bekmambetov
RELEASE DATE: Theatrical: February 17, 2006
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes, Color
LANGUAGE(S): Russian (with English subtitles)